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Who? What? When? Where? Why? Questions to Ask BEFORE Asking “How” to Live Your Life

Who? What? When? Where? Why? Questions to Ask BEFORE Asking “How” to Live Your Life

Do you want only simple, specific tips, or something wider and deeper?
Worried little girl

    It’s a very old journalistic cliché that stories should always contain answers to these six questions: What? Who? Where? When? How? Why? For example, a story about a murder could accomplish all of this in a single sentence: “Jones was murdered in his own home last evening by a neighbor using a shotgun in revenge for Jones’ insults to the neighbor’s wife.”

    It seems to me that more and more articles on the web are leaving aside this pattern to move to the “x simple tips on how to do y” format. There’s nothing wrong with such an approach — indeed, it’s clearly popular — but it implies that you already know the answers to the other five questions. Only the “how?” item remains, since that is all such articles address.

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    In my own experience, this is rarely the case. Most often, people do not know the answers to the other questions. They are either ignored or blithely assumed to be obvious.

    Questions for a New Year
    With a New Year upon us, you may be thinking about resolutions. Will it be enough to address only the “how?” issues? I think that one of the reasons why so many resolutions fail to last beyond January is that they assume you have indeed answered all the other questions, when the reality is that none of them have been tackled.

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    My suggestion is this: that you make sure you ask yourself allthe other questions, deliberately and carefully, before even considering the “how” of anything, whether the ways be simple or not. Try this sequence:

    • What are the issues facing you in your life? Have you thought about them carefully enough to put them into some order of priority, assuming that tackling them all at once is likely to be more than you can handle? Are you clear about exactly what they are? Do you understand them as fully as possible?
    • Why does it matter that you should deal with any of them? Is there something you wish to achieve; or something you think you need to change? What is your purpose in taking action? Are you sure that it is a purpose you truly believe in and can stick with long enough?
    • When should you start? Is now the right time? Are circumstances favorable enough? Would it be better to wait and see how events turn out? Are you in danger of rushing into short-term action when a long-term approach is needed?
    • Where should you begin? Which aspect of the problem or change should be tackled first? Is it the most important or the most pressing, since these typically refer to two aspects of any problem, not one?
    • Whodo you need on your side? Who has to help you — or at least stand aside — if you are going to succeed? Few matters of any real importance can be dealt with without assistance from others.. . . and, finally . . .
    • How should you do it? What is the best approach? What skills or techniques will you need? What can you learn from others’ experiences to assist you?

    Dealing with specifics

    As journalists have found for hundreds of years, all six questions are essential. Missing any of them leaves a gap that must be filled by assumptions or imagination. Just so, relying entirely on “x simple tips on how to do y” is likely to leave you guessing on such key questions as whether it’s worth doing anyway, or worth doing right now.

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    Best of all, the six questions can be adapted easily to cover almost any situation. Considering a change of job or career? Try this sequence:

    • What would suit you better than what you have now?
    • Why do you want to change? Is it a good enough reason?
    • When is the best time to make a move? Should you wait to seek how things turn out in a few months? Is this the right time for your long-term career hopes to make a move?
    • Where might offer you a better position? Another company? Another location? Another type of work altogether?
    • Who else do you need to consider? Partner? Family? Friends? Colleagues? Who might be able to help you or put in a good word with a prospective employer?
    • How should you go about it, taking into account the answers to all the previous questions?

    If you think through the sequence carefully, you’ll not only make a better career moves, you will have already prepared the answers to maybe 90% of interview questions.

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    Avoiding sound-bites and clichés

    Don’t be seduced by attractive sound-bites or simple-sounding, ready-made answers, when what you need are time to consider your situation fully and thoughtful questions to help you do so.

    Don’t jump to trying the “x simple ways” before you have spent sufficient time on deciding what you need to accomplish and why it matters.

    There will be opportunity enough to work on the (purely tactical) “how?” after you have first dealt with the (strategic) issues the other five questions will raise for you. Time spent in reconnaissance, as the saying goes, is never wasted — especially if you want to come out on the winning side.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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